For Immediate Release:  Wednesday, March 3, 1999
For More Information Contact:  Gary Ruskin (202) 296-2787

Nader Criticizes Corporate Contributions to the Lott Institute

Following a report that MCI WorldCom Inc. has pledged $1 million to the University of Mississippi's Trent Lott Leadership Institute, Ralph Nader called the pledge "a gentle form of influence-peddling to predispose Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's inclinations" regarding Internet and telecommunications matters, and urged Senate Majority Leader Lott and the University of Mississippi to decline MCI's contribution. The $1 million gift was disclosed Monday in Congressional Quarterly.

"Senator Lott should advise the University of Mississippi to refuse the $1 million from MCI WorldCom, or, if other corporations are being solicited, he should take his name off of the Trent Lott Leadership Institute," Nader said.

Congressional Quarterly reports that other major companies are expected to contribute to Senate Majority Leader Lott's Leadership Institute, including SkyTel Communications Inc., BellSouth Corp., and Netscape Communications Corp.

"Senator Lott's Institute should be renamed the Lott Institute for Corporate Gratuities," said Gary Ruskin, director of the Congressional Accountability Project. "Looks like Lott's students will gain firsthand knowledge of how corporations dish out seven-figure contributions to influence powerful politicians."

The Congressional Quarterly article notes that "MCI certainly has an interest in making Lott happy. For instance, it recently joined a lobbying alliance seeking legislation to force AT&T Corp. to provide access for rival Internet service providers to the cable network it will acquire in its pending merger with TeleCommunications Inc....Lott has been criticized for naming a representative of MCI to the commission studying whether Internet commerce should be taxed."